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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Plagiarism is NOT Writing!

Plagiarism is the act of stealing someone else's written words and passing them off as your own. Copyright ensures that what you write is safe and legally yours if someone tries to steal it. You could fill out an application to copyright a specific work, but there is a rule that says whatever you have written on paper (even on a napkin), and on the computer is protected by copyright.

No writer should ever steal another writer’s work!

It is okay if you get an idea for a story while reading another book. For example: you’re reading a romance between a vampire and a mortal *coughs* and you suddenly get a marvelous new concept for a paranormal romance involving a vampire and a mortal. That is fine! Just about every writer has thought of a new story this way, and you can use an idea you get while reading another book, but you have to make it your own. You must create your own plot, characters, and write in your own voice. 

Using the same name as a character in a book you’ve read is also okay. For example: you're reading a western-romance and you love the name Colt. You can use the name Colt for one of your characters but if you do, it would be smart to make your character vastly different. (New hair color, eye color, personality, and even career.) You don’t want to make it look like you kidnapped someone else's character for your own story.
TIP #1: Borrowing a character’s name only works if the name is ordinary. If you use the name Legolas or Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings, you’ll have a problem as these names are unique. Try to create your own instead. 
TIP #2: Only use one part of a character’s name. For example: say you like the last name Potter. You can certainly use it for a character in your book, but using Harry too wouldn’t be a good idea as that name combo is already legendary.

Along the line of stealing actual words, it is never a good idea! You may admire a writer's descriptive paragraph, and wish you had written it, but you cannot take it for your own book just because you're writing about a similar setting or moment. There are no shortcuts in writing! You always have to write your own descriptive paragraphs.

You can allow yourself to be inspired by a writer's words though. When I read this metaphor: “potato chip shards” (from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn . . . my book review is coming in 2 weeks!) my brain tingled. I thought that metaphor was incredibly vivid and creative. For my own writing, however, I'd find an alternative word for "shards" or use another type of chip. 

One of my readers a while back had asked a question regarding plagiarism and blog titles so I wanted to highlight that here for anyone else who may be wondering the same thing:

Having the same name for a post, like "Protagonist VS Antagonist", is entirely fine because a title is not copyrighted. Many authors have the same book titles, but the story is different. So you could use "Protagonist VS Antagonist" as a title as long as the content is not identical to mine. And if you do want to include a part of another blogger's post in yours, always use quotation marks and cite them, just as you would with a research paper.
TIP #3: If you are afraid something isn’t legal in regards to writing and/or blogging, just don’t do it and stay on the safe side.

QUESTION: Have you ever been the victim of plagiarism?


To find out more about Copyright go here: http://www.copyright.gov/


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30 comments:

  1. I think that most (normal?) writers won't bother stealing someone else's work. I do wonder, though, when I'm reading the work of someone I know and I think, "Oh, crap; I have a similar theme/situation in my WIP; will they think I plagiarized them???" Or, if I meet someone with the same name as one of my main characters I always worry. I never want people to think I'm basing characters off of them!

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    1. Smart writers won't anyway. lol All writers face the same worry, but we have to remember that many books by many authors have similar themes and situations, but the book as a whole is different. So if someone else publishes a book set during a hurricane after reading mine, I may be a little miffed (I'll admit it), but if their characters are different and the plot is nothing like mine then I know they didn't plagiarize me. And your writer friends should know it too. :)

      Names are quite common. As long as your character doesn't resemble this person then they should be able to see that the character isn't based off of them. And if by some odd twist of fate your character does resemble the person you just met who has the same name, I'd change the character's appearance just in case. lol

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  2. It is so much easier to copy and past in this digital age.
    I have this idea of a giant lizard that steps on Tokyo, I'll name him God Lizard!

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    1. LOL!!! I bet your God Lizard story will be made into movies! :P

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  3. When I first started writing I would copy those writers I admired, in as much as I would type out page and page to get the feel of the words. I also kept a Great Lines file that grew and grew and I was always referencing it. Not so much anymore. Maybe after all these years, I'm finally learning to write and trusting what I write? Not sure about that. Thanks for the visit. I loved all three comments!!

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    1. I've heard of writers copying whole pages by hand to get the feel of how an author writes in a specific tone or theme. That is actually a great idea! Almost like copying definitions from the dictionary to learn. I support that practice, just as long as those pages stay out of one's manuscript.

      I also keep a list of words and phrases for inspirational purposes. When I need a creativity boost, I like to look at metaphors from Jane Eyre and my other favorite books.

      lol I'm glad you liked my comments. :P Thank you for visiting me back. :)

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  4. Great reminders, Chrys. Reading Gone Girl is something every writer should do. Gillian Flynn is a true wordsmith and her writing voice is so gripping. I learned so much from reading her work.

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    1. Thank you, PK! And I agree. Gillian Flynn is amazing!

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  5. Copying is the lowest of the low in a writer's world.
    I used to keep a favorite author's book near me when I wrote, for inspirational purposes. I like to read their work when I was working on an especially tough scene, and they'd push me through.

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    1. Copying/stealing is the lowest of the low. It's terrible that people do it.

      Reading a book by an author you admire is a great inspirational boost!

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  6. That's just lazy. And stealing. Neither will get you ahead in the writing world.

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  7. This is becoming more and more of a problem in the digital world. There's just so much information being bandied about I think people assume they'll get a way with it. (Especially in the case of ripping off blogs--happens way more than I ever dreamed.)

    Best advice: Don't do it. Write your own stuff. :)

    Nice to meet you btw! Thanks for stopping by my blog last week. :D

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    1. You are right, E.J.! It is becoming more of a problem now-a-days. It's sadly easy for someone to steal another person's blog posts and pass it off as their own. And they are also doing it with eBooks, which is terrifying to me because my eBook, Hurricane Crimes, will be coming out next year.

      It's nice to meet you too, E.J.! I had fun visiting everyone's posts for PK's bloghop. Thank you for visiting my blog in return. :D

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  8. Oh man--unless you label it fan fiction and put it out there for free, I'm with you 100% of the way. Quote your sources if you're using a source! ;)

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    1. Free fan fiction (with full credit to the original author for creating the characters, world, story, etc.) could be the exception.

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  9. Great post Chrys and so much wisdom in the comments. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you, Kelly! And you're welcome. :)

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  10. James Frey is obviously then not related to you!

    (just teasing, sorry.... had to go there... too many Blue Hawaiians for breakfast :)

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    1. Nope, I'm not related to James Frey. But I guess it's a good thing I didn't make my pen name Chrys Frey. I'd rather have people ask me if I'm related to Tina Fey. lol

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  11. This is one of the scariest things we could think about as a writer. Luckily it doesn't happen that often, or does it?? A true writer understands and respects all the effort that goes into a book.

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    1. It certainly is scary. While it may not happen to every writer, I am seeing more and more reports of suspected plagiarism. It's terrible!

      And you're right about a true writer!

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  12. I've never understood why anyone who believes they're a writer would want to plagerize! I think most are hacks, looking for a quick buck, but some of the thieves caught really have thought of themselves as writers. Goes to show you how many people don't consider stealing as being wrong anymore. It's both sad and scary.

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    1. Perfectly said, River! I don't understand it either. :\

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  13. Good tips to be aware of. My character names are usually ordinary so they could be anybody. Or if a certain name becomes popular in a period of time. I like to look at the demographics pages of cities and find the most common/popular family names in the area.

    Weird, I know.

    .......dhole

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    1. Hi Donna! Discovering a characters name is always fun. :) Thank you for your comment!

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  14. Oh wow. I had no idea this was such a problem in the writing world. Scary to think someone would copy your ideas...

    Great post full of important information! I always enjoy reading your blog and come away feeling more knowledgeable! Thank you! :)

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    1. Oh yes, it's a huge problem.

      I'm happy you like my posts, Kristen. It's nice to have you on my blog/ :)

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  15. I have a great idea for a short story or novella, but it is a re-imagining of a story written by a (deceased) famous author. There are significant differences, like some of the originally male characters are changed to female (and vice versa), one of the characters described as "black" is refocused on his bisexuality, and there are relationships that either exacerbate or vastly differ from those in the original work. The plot is supposed to mirror the original, in a distorted sense. But overall, it's based on that work; anybody reading it would immediately see that.

    Is this plagiarism, and is it still plagiarism even if I acknowledge the author and title of the original work?

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    1. A lot of people write re-imaginings of Alice in Wonderland. Ideas actually can't be copyrighted. You could write your own story inspired by another author's story, but emphasis is on "your own story." I wouldn't mirror the original plot too much.

      For example: we all know Alice goes to wonderland, and who the key characters are, but in the re-imaginings of this story the characters are changed a bit and Alice does different things. A good idea would be to read some of these books.

      See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Works_based_on_Alice_in_Wonderland

      As long as you don't steal any of the author's words (sentences, etc.) from the original story, and change things up a bit to create your own story, you should be good. (Please keep in mind that I'm not an expert on plagiarism.) GOOD LUCK!

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Please tell me what you think. I love to chat! :)

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